Pre-Oscar parties hit full swing

Oscar weekend’s kickoff came with three Friday night parties thrown at agents’ homes — those of Endeavor’s Ariel Emanuel, CAA’s Bryan Lourd and ICM’s Ed Limato — where the basic protocol was for talent to attend only their tenpercentery’s affair while producers, execs and other neutrals party hopped.

One guest at Emanuel’s party said Friday’s social troika was “the holy trinity” of parties (though an exec’s spouse said being dragged to each was “like the stations of the cross”).

Sony Classics co-topper Tom Bernard described the party-hopping as “like going to the temples of the movie industry and paying homage to the gods.”

As an example of the night’s cultural spectrum, at Emanuel’s lavish tented party, Viacom prexy-CEO Tom Freston talked about an upcoming trip to Afghanistan, while across the room Paris Hilton worked her cell phone and Blackberry simultaneously with the gusto of a Wall Street trader.

J.C. Spink had to leave Emanuel’s for the “History of Violence” party he was co-hosting at the Reel Lounge. In comparison he described his own fiesta as “the ‘Bad News Bears’ of Oscar parties.”

And there was some truth in that. By the time Spink arrived, the fire marshal was already closing off entry to the basement restaurant, where the crowd was certainly more proletarian than the rarefied guests at the agents’ homes.

“This is the party for people who can’t get into the other parties,” said co-host Chris Bender, “which is basically our friends.”

Meanwhile, over at the soiree for George Clooney at the Chateau Marmont, the African Children’s Choir sang, and activist Bobby Shriver and Clooney asked industryites in the room to use their voices to put the spotlight on the poverty and AIDS on the continent.

At Saturday’s daytime Independent Spirit Awards, many said the Oscars were the Spirits redux, with the Spirits the “Oscars Lite” or the “Oscar equivalent at the beach” and the Oscars “tomorrow’s redundancy.”

Attorney Linda Lichter said the Spirit Awards had once been like “a small dysfunctional family gathering. Now the indies are like the kudzu that took over Hollywood.” For First Look prexy Ruth Vitale, the kudos are “the intersection of indie and studio.”

It’s certainly the intersection of something: Where else can you see the Olsen twins seated at a table with Roger Ebert?

Post-Spirits, the IFC hosted a party at Shutters and the Academy’s music branch a reception for the music nominees at a BevHills home. Around sunset, the Weinstein Co. had a reception in the Pacific Design Center’s transformed lobby, where Harvey Weinstein praised “the spirit of George Clooney“;mentioned his own prosperity (his company’s $1.2 billion financing); and intro’d Dolly Parton, who perf’d her nominated song “Travelin’ Thru” and mentioned that Weinstein had “worked my country butt” promoting the film.

Perfs also included Felicity Huffman and Judi Dench reading the “Top 10 List of Things You’re Not Going to Hear During the Weinstein Co.’s First Year,” with No. 6 being, “If we win, we’re going to Disneyland!” No. 1 was “I don’t care if we win; it’s an honor to be nominated.”

(Sharon Swart contributed to this report.)

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